Moscow Guide: St Basil’s Cathedral

Written by GUYS². Posted in 4-6 hours tours, Full day tours, It's Worth To Visit, Moscow Blog, Moscow Private Guided Tours

St Basil's Cathedral


St Basil’s Cathedral: History

One of my favourite place to visit in Moscow is – St Basil’s Cathedral. I believe the most notable and famous all around the world about Russia. During every Moscow private guided tour me or my sister show our guests this amazing cathedral. Also we know some spots in Moscow from which you can make beautiful pictures of the Kremlin, St Basil’s Cathedral and The Red Square at once. This is the best-known church in Moscow — St Basil’s Cathedral or the Cathedral of the Protection of Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat, is located on the Red Square next to the Kremlin wall. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This cathedral is jointly used by the State Historical Museum and the Russian orthodox Church, and thus religious services are conducted there from time to time. Its history goes back to the time when Ivan the Terrible was the supreme ruler of Russia. The St Basil’s Cathedral was built in 1555-1561, to commemorate the successful termination of the Kazan military campaigns. Its smaller churches were consecrated to honor the saints at whose days important victories were achieved, and the main church, which is located in the center of the complex and is taller than the rest, was dedicated to the holy day of the Protection of Most Holy Theotokos — that was the day when city Kazan was taken.

The church complex consists of nine churches erected on the same foundation. In 1558, one more church was added to them: it was built over the burial place of the famous Moscow “holy fool of Christ”, Vasily (English – Basil) the blessed, formally canonized at that time. Since the St Basil’s Cathedral had a special status, parishioners came for worship to the smaller St Basil’s church. This name was referred to very often and eventually it replaced the title of the whole church complex. The cathedral of the Protection of Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat is not just one of the most beautiful buildings in Moscow, it is also a most interesting museum with a very rich collection.

During Soviet times it was on the list of Soviet government to be demolished as other cathedrals and churches in Russia but survived due to Russian scientist – Pyotr Baranovsky

If you want to book the tour and visit St Basil’s Cathedral, please send us email.

St Basil’s Cathedral: Plan

St Basil’s Cathedral was completed in 1561. It is reputed to have been designed be the architect Postnik Yakovlev. According to the legend, Ivan the Terrible was so amazed at the beauty of his work that he had him blinded so that he would never be able to design anything as exquisite again. The church was officially called the Cathedral of the Intercession because the final siege of Kazan began on the Feast of the Intercession of the Virgin. The cathedral’s design which was inspired by traditional Russian timber architecture is a riot of gables, tent roofs and twisting onion domes.

  • 1. Domes: Following a fire in 1583 the original helmet-shaped cupolas were replaced by ribbed of faceted onion domes. It is only since 1670 that the domes have been painted many colors; at one time St Basil’s Cathedral was white with golden domes.
  • 2. Chapel of St. Cyprian: This is one of the eight main chapels commemorating the campaigns of Ivan the Terrible against town of Kazan, to the east of Moscow, It is dedicated to St. Cyprian, whose feast is on October 2, the day after the last attack
  • 3. The Chapel of St Basil: The ninth chapel to be added to the cathedral, was built in 1588 to house the remains of the “holy fool”, Basil the Blessed
  • 7. Gallery: Running around the outside of the Central Chapel, the gallery connects it to the other eight chapels. It was roofed over at the end of the 17th century and the walls and ceilings were decorated with floral tiles in the late 18th century
  • 8. The Chapel of the Entry of Christ into Jerusalem: Was used as a ceremonial entrance during the annual Palm Sunday procession. On this day the patriarch rode from the Kremlin to St Basil’s Cathedral on horse dressed up to look like a donkey
  • 11. Main Iconostasis: The Baroque-style iconostasis in the Central Chapel of the Intercession dates from the 19th century. However, some of the icons contained in it were painted much earlier
  • 16. Minin and Pozharsky Monument: A bronze statue by Ivan Martos depicts two heroes from the Time of Troubles, the butcher Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitry Pozharsky. They raised a volunteer force to fight the invading Poles and in 1612 led their army to victory when they drove the Poles out of the Kremlin, The statue was erected in 1818 in the triumphal afterglow of the Napoleonic Wars Originally placed in the center of the Red Square facing the Kremlin it was moved to its present site in front of St Basil;s during Soviet era by the order of Stalin.

St Basil’s Cathedral: Views

Russian Orthodox Churches: How To Behave In A Russian Orthodox Church

Inside the church, certain rules must be observed, especially during worship. It is forbidden to make noise, talk loudly, look closely at the worshippers or take their pictures, and enter the altar part of the church. The dress code must also be observed: your dress should not be too revealing, and it may not have anti-Christian symbols in its design and pattern. It is not permitted to smoke on the premises, drink alcohol or visit the church in an inebriated condition; no swearing or use of foul language is tolerated either. Rules for believers are even stricter: upon entering the church, men take off their hats while women, on the contrary, cover their heads. It is generally considered appropriate for a woman to enter the church in a skirt of a sufficient length, avoiding pants or slacks, and without makeup. If you are not a believer, do not cross yourself, bow, or light candles “just to be polite”. Those around you understand very well that their church may be a historical landmark, so the best a church visitor can do is not interfere with other people’s prayer.

  • Location: Red Square
  • Operation Hours: 11.00am-06.00pm; Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun
  • Closed every first Monday of each month
  • Admission Fee: 350RUB (you can make pictures inside of the Cathedral)

St Basil’s Cathedral through ages

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